: The Swedish Fairy Book
Once upon a time there was a poor widow, who found an egg under a pile
of brush as she was gathering kindlings in the forest. She took it and
placed it under a goose, and when the goose had hatched it, a little
boy slipped out of the shell. The widow had him baptized Knoes, and
such a lad was a rarity; for when no more than five years old he was
grown, and taller than the tallest man. And he ate in proportion, for
uld swallow a whole batch of bread at a single sitting, and at
last the poor widow had to go to the commissioners for the relief of
the poor in order to get food for him. But the town authorities said
she must apprentice the boy at a trade, for he was big enough and
strong enough to earn his own keep.
So Knoes was apprenticed to a smith for three years. For his pay he
asked a suit of clothes and a sword each year: a sword of five
hundredweights the first year, one of ten hundredweights the second
year, and one of fifteen hundredweights the third year. But after he
had been in the smithy only a few days, the smith was glad to give him
all three suits and all three swords at once; for he smashed all his
iron and steel to bits.
Knoes received his suits and swords, went to a knight's estate, and
hired himself out as a serving-man. Once he was told to go to the
forest to gather firewood with the rest of the men, but sat at the
table eating long after the others had driven off and when he had at
last satisfied his hunger and was ready to start, he saw the two young
oxen he was to drive waiting for him. But he let them stand and went
into the forest, seized the two largest trees growing there, tore them
out by the roots, took one tree under each arm, and carried them back
to the estate. And he got there long before the rest, for they had to
chop down the trees, saw them up and load them on the carts.
On the following day Knoes had to thresh. First he hunted up the
largest stone he could find, and rolled it around on the grain, so
that all the corn was loosened from the ears. Then he had to separate
the grain from the chaff. So he made a hole in each side of the roof
of the barn, and stood outside the barn and blew, and the chaff and
straw flew out into the yard, and the corn remained lying in a heap on
the floor. His master happened to come along, laid a ladder against
the barn, climbed up and looked down into one of the holes. But Knoes
was still blowing, and the wind caught his master, and he fell down
and was nearly killed on the stone pavement of the court.
"He's a dangerous fellow," thought his master. It would be a good
thing to be rid of him, otherwise he might do away with all of them;
and besides, he ate so that it was all one could do to keep him fed.
So he called Knoes in, and paid him his wages for the full year, on
condition that he leave. Knoes agreed, but said he must first be
decently provisioned for his journey.
So he was allowed to go into the store-house himself, and there he
hoisted a flitch of bacon on each shoulder, slid a batch of bread
under each arm, and took leave. But his master loosed the vicious bull
on him. Knoes, however, grasped him by the horns, and flung him over
his shoulder, and thus he went off. Then he came to a thicket where he
slaughtered the bull, roasted him and ate him together with a batch of
bread. And when he had done this he had about taken the edge off his
Then he came to the king's court, where great sorrow reigned because,
once upon a time, when the king was sailing out at sea, a sea troll
had called up a terrible tempest, so that the ship was about to sink.
In order to escape with his life, the king had to promise the sea
troll to give him whatever first came his way when he reached shore.
The king thought his hunting dog would be the first to come running
to meet him, as usual; but instead his three young daughters came
rowing out to meet him in a boat. This filled the king with grief, and
he vowed that whoever delivered his daughters should have one of them
for a bride, whichever one he might choose. But the only man who
seemed to want to earn the reward was a tailor, named Red Peter.
Knoes was given a place at the king's court, and his duty was to help
the cook. But he asked to be let off on the day the troll was to come
and carry away the oldest princess, and they were glad to let him go;
for when he had to rinse the dishes he broke the king's vessels of
gold and silver; and when he was told to bring firewood, he brought in
a whole wagon-load at once, so that the doors flew from their hinges.
The princess stood on the sea-shore and wept and wrung her hands; for
she could see what she had to expect. Nor did she have much confidence
in Red Peter, who sat on a willow-stump, with a rusty old sabre in his
hand. Then Knoes came and tried to comfort the princess as well as he
knew how, and asked her whether she would comb his hair. Yes, he might
lay his head in her lap, and she combed his hair. Suddenly there was a
dreadful roaring out at sea. It was the troll who was coming along,
and he had five heads. Red Peter was so frightened that he rolled off
his willow-stump. "Knoes, is that you?" cried the troll. "Yes," said
Knoes. "Haul me up on the shore!" said the troll. "Pay out the cable!"
said Knoes. Then he hauled the troll ashore; but he had his sword of
five hundredweights at his side, and with it he chopped off all five
of the troll's heads, and the princess was free. But when Knoes had
gone off, Red Peter put his sabre to the breast of the princess, and
told her he would kill her unless she said he was her deliverer.
Then came the turn of the second princess. Once more Red Peter sat on
the willow-stump with his rusty sabre, and Knoes asking to be let off
for the day, went to the sea-shore and begged the princess to comb his
hair, which she did. Then along came the troll, and this time he had
ten heads. "Knoes, is that you?" asked the troll. "Yes," said Knoes.
"Haul me ashore!" said the troll. "Pay out the cable!" said Knoes. And
this time Knoes had his sword of ten hundredweights at his side, and he
cut off all ten of the troll's heads. And so the second princess was
freed. But Red Peter held his sabre at the princess' breast, and
forced her to say that he had delivered her.
Now it was the turn of the youngest princess. When it was time for the
troll to come, Red Peter was sitting on his willow-stump, and Knoes
came and begged the princess to comb his hair, and she did so. This
time the troll had fifteen heads.
"Knoes, is that you?" asked the troll. "Yes," said Knoes. "Haul me
ashore!" said the troll. "Pay out the cable," said Knoes. Knoes had his
sword of fifteen hundredweights at his side, and with it he cut off
all the troll's heads. But the fifteen hundredweights were
half-an-ounce short, and the heads grew on again, and the troll took
the princess, and carried her off with him.
One day as Knoes was going along, he met a man carrying a church on his
back. "You are a strong man, you are!" said Knoes. "No, I am not
strong," said he, "but Knoes at the king's court, he is strong; for he
can take steel and iron, and weld them together with his hands as
though they were clay." "Well, I'm the man of whom you are speaking,"
said Knoes, "come, let us travel together." And so they wandered on.
Then they met a man who carried a mountain of stone on his back. "You
are strong, you are!" said Knoes. "No, I'm not strong," said the man
with the mountain of stone, "but Knoes at the king's court, he is
strong; for he can weld together steel and iron with his hands as
though they were clay."
"Well, I am that Knoes, come let us travel together," said Knoes. So all
three of them traveled along together. Knoes took them for a sea-trip;
but I think they had to leave the church and the hill of stone ashore.
While they were sailing they grew thirsty, and lay alongside an
island, and there on the island stood a castle, to which they decided
to go and ask for a drink. Now this was the very castle in which the
First the man with the church went, and when he entered the castle,
there sat the troll with the princess on his lap, and she was very
sad. He asked for something to drink. "Help yourself, the goblet is on
the table!" said the troll. But he got nothing to drink, for though he
could move the goblet from its place, he could not raise it.
Then the man with the hill of stone went into the castle and asked for
a drink. "Help yourself, the goblet is on the table!" said the troll.
And he got nothing to drink either, for though he could move the
goblet from its place, he could not raise it.
Then Knoes himself went into the castle, and the princess was full of
joy and leaped down from the troll's lap when she saw it was he. Knoes
asked for a drink. "Help yourself," said the troll, "the goblet is on
the table!" And Knoes took the goblet and emptied it at a single
draught. Then he hit the troll across the head with the goblet, so
that he rolled from the chair and died.
Knoes took the princess back to the royal palace, and O, how happy
every one was! The other princesses recognized Knoes again, for they
had woven silk ribbons into his hair when they had combed it; but he
could only marry one of the princesses, whichever one he preferred, so
he chose the youngest. And when the king died, Knoes inherited the
As for Red Peter, he had to go into the nail-barrel.
And now you know all that I know.
The leading personage of our first story, Knoes (Tecknigar og
Toner ur skanska allmogenslif, Lund, 1889, p. 14. From
Gudmundstorp, Froste Harad) is one of those heroes of gigantic
build, beloved of the North, who even when he eats,
accomplishes deeds such as the old Norsemen told of their god
Thor: the motive of the goblet with which the hero slays the
giant, has been used in the Hymiskvida. (Comp. with v. d.
Leyen, Maerchen in den Goettsagen der Edda, p. 40.)